This week I’d like to discuss operating in spite.
Usually people who operate from this negative space are hurting & in such misery, that they allow their embarrassment to keep them from speaking on such.
The pain hardens them to a point where they become stone cold.
It’s very ugly & unbecoming when pride & ego take over to that capacity.
Sometimes this even trickles down to artists & creators of all kinds. Their failures & naysayers have become the only voice they hear & in a digital world – read & see.
It’s very easy to fall into creating from this kind of space because it’s driven with determination to prove others wrong.
I’ve been there…
Looking back, as much as it fueled me, it also left me feeling empty.
For those of you who’ve been rocking with me since the very beginning, know that after a failed relationship I started my blog “The Single Lady”.
It was empowering to speak on various topics pertaining to us ladies who have dealt with the same issues, what it takes to move forward, sex, & perspective.
During that time I felt nothing but stuck.
I was told I wasn’t shit & that I was never going to be shit.
I was let down a lot, I had even started to believe the words of these people who weaponized their remarks.
I got to a place where I was determined to prove them wrong & I did.
When they’d trickle in to apologize or say how they knew I’d make something of myself, I’d laugh at how quick those tables turned.
Their apologies, their backhanded compliments, their phoniness, all gassed me up.
My pride & ego felt satisfaction knowing I was proving them wrong & making them eat their words while they watched.
“The Single Lady” grew from a blog to an entire brand.
On December 7th, 2013 I debuted “TSL by MML”, a streetwear clothing line meant solely for my women supporters & readers of “The Single Lady”, the feedback I consistently got on the blog was that the write ups were great & relatable but they also wanted merch, so I gave it to them.
I’m the first female from my city to work & sell merchandise in Richmond Hood Company, that in itself was a milestone for me. – Shoutout to Tariq!
I dropped 2 women’s collections that sold out & by the second release, I had my male supporters asking when I was going to create something for them.
By the third collection I had decided to go unisex to appeal to everyone.
The people who doubted me were eating their words at this point & I relished in that.
“TSL by MML” was being supported & flying off the shelves at Richmond Hood Company along with selling out on my web shop.
I was still learning this business while running everything on my own, as well as being the one to come out of pocket for high quality production, packaging, promotions, etc.
It’s a lot for one person to do on their own, most people don’t tell you that part, but it is.
I didn’t have a team of people helping & still don’t.
I didn’t always feel supported.
I just kept pushing & creating because I felt like I had something to prove.
In 2020 I re-released a design I had done years prior to advocate for the culture & the things we’re against.
The ANTI Relaunch was to once again advocate during these times because the message then stood even harder now.
I promised that half of my proceeds from the Relaunch would be donated to The Bail Project & I did exactly that.
Months later a friend of mine brought to my attention that there was a tee floating around the internet that was oddly similar to mine.
I looked into it & a woman from California found herself stealing my design & tweaking it slightly to “make it her own”.
I raised hell.
I called her out.
My supporters called her out. – IYKYK
Finally giving her no choice but to come forward & address the matter.
I’m choosing to keep her name/ IG handle out of this post because she doesn’t deserve the mention.
But needless to say her lawyers contacted me pointing out minor differences. Stating how during this time where racism is so prominent that we must’ve had the same idea.
I argued back pointing out that my design was created in 2015 & originally released in January of 2016 so there was no way we had the same idea since I created the template first. Could we feel the same in terms of how things are politically & socially? Sure. Did she create the ANTI graphics? No.
The Relaunch in 2020 must’ve came across her desk because it was months later that she dropped her merchandise & everything down to the font I used & the placement of graphics were mimicked. Her promotional photo to promote the tee was a direct duplicate of my friend’s photo taken to promote mine.
The internet is one hell of a place…
It can be resourceful & informative at times, but it can also be a place where your work & intellectual property are stolen with zero regard.
I couldn’t believe that a woman of color, just like me, would steal & go on to sell her mimicked merchandise.
Maybe I was naïve in thinking that nobody would ever steal my art, but in my time of creating it had never happened.
Especially by a woman who’s verified, publicized, & worked with major brands.
That idea alone still seems so crazy to me.
A major lesson it taught me was to buckle down & finally legitimize my brand.
For years I never committed fully because I felt I was going to evolve from “TSL by MML” & I was right.
In the end, I had no legal footing to win this battle aside from knowing the truth of her lack of integrity.
It left me upset & hurt.
I felt I had put so much time, effort, & money into “TSL by MML” all for it to crumble.
After that experience I looked at things very differently.
Not only did someone with a way bigger platform feel the need to steal from me confirming my talents but I was finally free from operating & creating from a place of spite.
Not many have the heart to say this out loud but I’m about being transparent & I feel in some ways because I created those things out of spite to prove others who don’t even matter wrong, I tainted my creations with their ugliness because I too had become that in a sense.
I became bitter to all the negative things that were said to me because I started letting those things become my narrative & drive force.
This moment for me was a rebirth in many aspects not just in terms of a clothing line.
I dove deep into spirituality, making my relationship with God unwavering.
I checked into therapy to heal myself deeper & to really release the burdens & insecurities I carried that were never mine to begin with. I took accountability for where I was at & sorted through my shit.
It’s no lie when they say the mind is a powerful tool, that’s why you’re mindset & intentions are so important when cultivating anything.
After all of my internal work, I said “I’m going to rebuild.”
This past year has been one of the most humbling.
I shed so many layers of my old self.
I let go of outdated thinking, programming, & fears that were being projected on me & my ideas.
I realized that people weren’t always going to believe in me or my plans because they hardly believe in themselves. I couldn’t let their disbelief reroute me or skew my confidence.
I released the ego & pridefulness that I carried & wore like armor because for so long I was protecting myself & it’s not to say I no longer am, but I’m doing so in a much healthier way by asserting better boundaries & clearer communication.
I realized that my resilience was unmatched because this time I didn’t want to create from a space of spite. I was mortified when I thought back to how that was all that really drove me prior.
My intentions in moving forward were/ are so pure because I realized how ugly it was of me to be operating from that space.
I no longer look for validation or acceptance. I’m not looking to stunt or flex for the internet.
I’m confident in knowing who I am & what I bring to any space that I enter with or without someone acknowledging those aspects of me because my aura is effortless.
I share this story because you can see how operating & creating from a place of spite can become your downfall.
In many ways I feel it was that for me but I more so feel like it was an opportunity to rebuild & expand.
I was so hurt over old girl stealing my design that I cancelled my 8 year old brand.
In turn, I legitimized 2 businesses at once earlier this year.
God says the weapons will form but they will not prosper & don’t I know it.
I know that what got me here, is what truly keeps me here.
Having my work stolen was an eye opener but it also affected my mental health because it’s something I cherished & held tightly. The thought of starting over scared me & I wasn’t sure if it was something I can do again but God said “I allowed you to do it once, now go & do it twice!”
I had to reassess & from there I was able to start over.
I tend to get overzealous & reveal things too soon out of excitement which isn’t good because the fact is, there are people who don’t want to see me doing these things. Some intentionally & unintentionally, but nonetheless that energy is not welcomed here & this time around I knew better. I said “I’m not sharing anything publicly until everything is official.”
I’ve been sitting on this for months, I even have merch that I’ve been holding on to because I refused to sell without legitimacy.
A few weeks ago I got word that next week on November 9th, 2021 my trademarks will be published in the Official Gazette of The United States Patent & Trademark Office.
This may be small to some but to me it’s major, I’m the first business owner in my family since my great grandmother Maria who owned & managed a bodega in Brooklyn.
The moral of the story is don’t let your hurt & pain cause you to operate or create from a place of spite.
Don’t be fueled or become hardened by others jealousy & hate.
Don’t let them dim your light with their commitment to misunderstanding you or your plans.
Blessings pour in when your intentions are pure, they also hit different when you look back on all it took to get there.